Dol Amroth: January 2976
Five months - five long, painful months had passed since Ivriniel had lost her unborn child. The first four of those months, Ivriniel had mourned deeply for both of her losses - with Finduilas at her side - on a daily basis. But now, her tears had dried up. She had not moved on - she never would. But the heavy ride of emotions had passed, and the shock of miscarrying her child had buried itself deep within her. Slowly, she began to realise that she had not lost everything she had loved; her family was still at her side, and so was the sea.
The sea. Ivriniel sat on the shores, raking her fingers through the sand. In front of her, a small crab skittered away towards a shell for safety. A seagull chirped from the sky above, swooping over the shoreline, searching for food. The waves crashed against the rocks of the cliff, causing roaring sounds at the impact. The Earth was alive with its nature, beauty, and its way of life. But Ivriniel did not see its beauty, nor did the sun's rays from above warm her skin. It was an everlasting bitter coldness for her - a life of heartache, a wildness of loss.
The noon bell rung in the distance; Ivriniel stood up and started making her way back into the city, back to the palace. Today was Imrahil's twenty-first birthday – his coming-of-age ceremony. It also meant he was to be knighted under the laws of Gondor. Ivriniel was truly happy for her brother moving up in the world. She was also happy for her parents; she knew today was extra special. Their only son and her father's heir had made it to manhood fully healthy. Relief is what they all felt.
Ivriniel changed her overcoat into something more elegant for her brother's knighting ceremony. The whole court and anyone else able to fit into the great hall came to witness the knighting of their future leader. Ivriniel stood next to Finduilas on the dais. Their grandfather sat on his throne with his clerk holding a cushion with a chain of knighthood resting on it. Ivriniel could see the pride in her grandfather's and parents' eyes as Imrahil was brought before the court.
The herald escorting Imrahil bowed before Angelimir and spoke, "My Lord Prince Angelimir, now before you comes Imrahil, son of Adrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, who bears the arms of the Princedom House of Dol Amroth."
Imrahil stepped before the dais and knelt, his head bowed. "I, Prince Imrahil, swear fealty and my service to Gondor and my home fiefdom, Belfalas; to always be a true and justly knight of your service, reverent, and courageous. I swear to be obedient to my liege-lord, let it be in battle, abroad, or in the comfort of my own home."
Angelimir rose from his throne and stepped to the edge of the dais, looking down at his grandson. "You have been right mindful of your skills and abilities in the field; you have proven yourself worthy of the title Swan Knight. Know that by wearing the chain of knighthood in this fiefdom holds a sacred responsibility. The obligations of knighthood will demand you to keep your honour, and show respect to those above and equal to you every moment of your life. Do you swear never be disrespectable to the beliefs of others; you are to protect those who are weak or cannot defend themselves, whether because of age, poverty, or skill; be steadfast in defending them. A knight of this fiefdom must love and honour not only the fiefdom he is appointed to, but also the kingdom he was born in to. Fulfil all your duties faithfully; your word to be trustworthy beyond doubt and question. Never flee from foe and be generous to all. All Swan Knights are to be courteous in the company of others. Above all, be loyal to your country."
"I do so swear," Imrahil answered, keeping his head lowered.
The clerk walked over to his liege and Angelimir picked up the chain of knighthood, placing it over Imrahil's shoulders. "Bear your sword with strength and superiority; only use it to defend justly with the right."
Adrahil walked over to his father and kneeled, offering the Swan Sword of Dol Amroth: a sword that had been passed down through many generations on princes. Angelimir accepted the sword and placed the sword flatly on both of Imrahil's shoulders. "Pray to the Valar that you bear these blows and that they are the last you ever receive."
Imrahil stood proudly before his family and turned to face the crowd before him.
To all gentlemen and ladies who bear witness on this day. Prince Imrahil, son of Prince Adrahil, heir to the Princedom of Dol Amroth, be knighted this day, entering the service of his rightful Lord and Kin, Prince Angelimir," the herald spoke aloud.
The crowd cheered, clapping; approving. Ivriniel joined in on the applause, feeling a tinge of happiness flow through her. Her little baby brother was a man today. He was a knight of the realm, ready to serve their grandfather in the field. But thinking of fighting made Ivriniel's stomach swirl in disfavour. Losdir had served as a knight in the field for her grandfather, and had perished. She could not lose Imrahil to that same fate. She bit her bottom lip, closing her eyes to refrain her fear from being exposed to the public eye.
That evening, Imrahil's birthday celebrations erupted in the great hall. Music, dancing, barrels of ale and wine were brought in with dozens of platters of freshly cooked food. The musicians played lively music from the gallery overlooking the hall, while people danced merrily with their partners. Ivriniel watched Finduilas dance with their brother. Both her siblings were filled to the brim with happiness. Part of Ivriniel envied their ability to become so happy. She wanted to join in with their celebrations, but guilt overcame her. She had vowed to be forever in mourning. She was wearing her best gown of black velvet. It had silver laces that sparkled in the light, but she wore no jewellery. She would not dazzle the eye, fearing to attract unwanted male attention. Her father had informed her that her months of official mourning were now over, and men were permitted to approach her, possibly in an attempt to court her. The thought sickened her.
She pushed her food around the plate with her fork. She barely had an appetite these days; her body looking thinner than it had ever been before. She found the courage to eat a few sliced meats with steamed vegetables, but the fruity smell of wine made her feel dizzy. Instead, she drank water, not wanting the affects of wine or ale to cause her to do something imprudent on her brother's birthday. The last time she drank wine, its affect made her break down into a fit of sobs. She would not weep this night. For Imrahil's sake.
Finduilas eventually joined her, her face flustered from all the dancing she had been doing. "Come and dance, Ivriniel. It will do you good."
She shook her head. "I cannot. I do not have the willpower."
Finduilas slumped back in her chair. "You never have the willpower to do anything these days. You have turned into this... this unvarying princess since your husband's death. You are very consistent with your duties to mourn him."
"I have every reason to," Ivriniel snapped. She lowered her voice. "Would you do the same as I if Lord Agoron died?"
Finduilas' cheeks reddened at the sound of his name. "I never see him anymore. Father has forbidden it. He does not want any scandal attached to my name since I am to marry Lord Denethor."
Ivriniel sighed. "You will be married soon; you will be leaving me forever."
Finduilas held her sister's hand. "My offer for you to come and live with me is still on the table."
She shook her head. "I cannot leave here. Home is the last memory of what I love. I cannot follow you."
Finduilas closed her eyes and nodded. "I understand. And believe me when I say that I do not want to leave home either. But I have no choice. I have accepted Father's decision to marry me off to some distant Lord in a cold city. I may never love Lord Denethor, but I will do my duty as his obedient wife."
"Did you come to this conclusion on your own?" Ivriniel asked curiously.
Finduilas laughed and shook her head. "Definitely not. You know that my stubbornness gets the better of me. Mother talked to me on the matter and managed to sway my mind. Lord Denethor should thank her for that."
Ivriniel smiled softly. She turned to look at their mother; she was sitting with their father, enjoying the celebrations. But her face was deathly pale. "Is Mother all right?" Ivriniel asked her sister.
Finduilas took a glimpse of their mother and frowned concerned. "She is getting no better. I fear for her."
Ivriniel gripped her cup tightly, not wanting to think of losing her mother. There had been enough deaths already for her. Not her mother. Not now.
"Look at him," Finduilas said, pointing at Imrahil. "He is definitely a man now."
Their beloved brother was dancing with a pretty young woman. "Is he interested in her?" Ivriniel asked, watching her brother place his hand on the woman's waist.
"I do not believe he has a love interest in her. Something less," Finduilas replied. "You know."
Ivriniel frowned. "He is not going to... take her honour?"
Finduilas laughed. "I am sure her honour is the last thing on her mind right now. She seems besotted with him."
"Our brother is a handsome man," Ivriniel remarked. "And he has the pick of any woman he likes."
Finduilas nodded. "He will marry someday. But not yet, I deem. He will want some... what do the men call it? Freedom?"
"Being married does not take away your freedom," Ivriniel said crossly.
"I was only jesting, Sister," Finduilas replied. "Do you not like jesting now either?"
That night, Ivriniel slipped into her bed, falling asleep almost in an instant. But her dreams were not pleasant. She saw a room; a large, white room with a big bed. A woman was resting in it, her eyes closed, her face pale. It was she; it was Finduilas.
Ivriniel woke with a start. What had she seen? It felt so... so real, so life-like. She had felt the coldness in the room, the soft twittering of the birds from outside. And her sister, she had appeared much older... yet her beauty had not diminished. She had seemed so peaceful, yet on the brink of death. Had it been a vision? Was what she saw going to happen?
Ivriniel sprang out of bed and placed her slippers and robe on. Nan was sleeping peacefully in the antechamber and did not stir as Ivriniel fled from the room. The corridor was bitterly cold in the dead of night. She stopped at a window and looked out at the sea; it glimmered like a pearl from the full moon hovering above. She continued walking, making her way down another corridor to her brother's chamber. She hoped he would be there and not out at a tavern or some other place outside the palace.
She knocked on the door to his apartments. There was no answer. Ivriniel frowned. Imrahil's usher was always there to answer the door, even if Imrahil was not present. She opened the door and stepped into the antechamber. The fire was burning low in the pit, giving the room a deep, red glow. She walked swiftly over to the bedchamber door and stopped abruptly before she knocked. She placed her ear to the door and heard giggling... a woman giggling. Ivriniel frowned, hoping her brother was not doing what she thought he was doing. Even if it were his birthday, she would not have it.
She knocked loudly. "Imrahil, I need to speak to you." She had spoken quite loudly and heard muffled voices.
Imrahil opened the door a small way, glaring. "Ivriniel, this better be important."
"Is dallying with a... a whore more important than speaking to your sister?" she asked conceitedly.
Imrahil sighed. "She is no whore." He slipped out of his bedchamber, closing the door quickly.
"I believe I had a vision."
Imrahil folded his arms. "Whatever are you talking about?"
"I had a dream... a vision," Ivriniel replied. "It was of Finduilas."
"I thought you did not believe in our family being able to see what is to come," Imrahil said.
"Well, it takes seeing a vision to convert one's thoughts," she replied. "It felt so real, so... so genuine. I felt the air moving, the sounds... the smell. It was eerie."
"What was Finduilas doing?" he asked.
"Sleeping in a bed in a cold room," Ivriniel answered. "I think it was a time when she will be married to Lord Denethor." Ivriniel placed a hand on her forehead. "I think I just saw her death. She was so pale and lifeless. The atmosphere was so very cold and dead."
Imrahil grabbed her hand. "Sister, listen to me. It was only a dream, nothing more."
Ivriniel released her hand from his clutch. "How do you know that?"
"You have been through a very hard and exhausting time these past several months. It is understandable for you to... dream or think of losing others close to you."
"I did not will this dream."
"I know, I know," he said. "But we also cannot choose what we dream."
Ivriniel sighed, defeated. "I do not want her to marry him."
"Neither do I," Imrahil agreed. "But we have no say in the matter. What is done is done. All we can do is support her and be there for her when she needs us."
Ivriniel nodded. "Well then, you can go back to whoever you have in your bed."
Imrahil grinned. "I was getting tired anyway."
Ivriniel scrunched her nose. "I do not want to hear any details of your love affairs."
Imrahil kissed her on the cheek. "Go back to bed and pray that you have a pleasant dream, Sister."
Ivriniel left her brother's apartments, but instead of going back to her own chambers, she walked out into an alcove and leaned on the railing. She allowed the cold night air to make her body go numb, for she did not want to feel anything. Despite what Imrahil had said Ivriniel believed to the bottom of her heart that Finduilas was going to meet her untimely end in Minas Tirith. But what would the reason be? Ivriniel could not comprehend that. Perhaps Lord Denethor will treat her unkindly or she will end up unhappy, perhaps becoming sick. But why should she tarry on such thoughts? Telling her parents about her dream would not sway their minds to keep Finduilas at home. Nothing will change their minds on this advantageous marriage, and because of that, Ivriniel was scared for her little sister.